The job market in 2020 is starkly different than what we have seen in previous years. COVID-19 has resulted in record high unemployment numbers and workplace closures, especially in the public and academic spheres where many information professionals develop their careers. Today’s librarians must have a wide-ranging skillset and the ability to use those skills in areas that may be outside of their comfort zone to be viable in the job market.
According to this snapshot of job postings:
- The number of job postings requiring “job-specific experience” declined from 83% in 2019 to 79% in 2020.
- Job postings that preferred “job-specific experience” rose from 9% in 2019 to 16% in 2020.
- In 81% of job postings, employers either required or preferred an MLIS degree.
These substantial changes in experience being required or preferred indicate that employers are shifting to an expectation that applicants will have at least some level of previous, relevant work experience.
Most professional librarian jobs will have some of the following criteria:
- Four-year undergraduate degree
- MLS degree from an American Library Association (ALA)-accredited school
- A teaching certificate
- A second Master’s degree
As newly-minted information professionals search for their first job, and experienced librarians look for jobs outside of traditional librarianship, they may experience hesitation in their job search. While there is no skill set definitive of every librarian, generally they should be keen on customer service, familiar with digital and physical resources, digitally literate, collaborative, creative and have good communication skills. They may need experience in certain software, be familiar with established principles or have a specific degree or background in a particular subject area. Making your skills transferable to another job in librarianship or in a completely new field is a skill within itself, and one that proves fruitful.
Transferable skills are skills that can be applied to a bevy of situations and are indispensable when it comes to changing careers. Prospective employers need to be confident that a new hire will be able to do the job and do it well. The good news is that you already have a ton of transferable skills that you’ve picked up just by living your life, going to school or working at any job. Transferable skills are not limited to on-the-job experience. If you find yourself lacking, below are things you can do to make your skills relevant to a job you like.
Take a class
As anyone reading this knows, public libraries offer various classes for a variety of skills. Most, if not all, are free. They also have subscriptions to software that allows you to strengthen or learn new skills. Given today’s circumstances, you may want to check if your local library have these classes available online.
Join a group
Meeting new people with similar interests is a great way to pick up new knowledge. Your new group mates may have the experience you need and can assist you in achieving your goals.
Get a mentor
Connecting with someone who has your ideal career is a fantastic way to jump-start your professional prowess. They can give you tips and share anecdotes that may save you from missteps and keep you on a rewarding career path.
Volunteering looks great on any resume. It helps you develop and refine skills that may be new to you. It also makes you more confident and provides you with an opportunity to meet new people.
Cultivate your network
Social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter are a great way to virtually meet colleagues. You may get opportunities to collaborate and create more skills that you can put on your resume.
Read books, articles, forums or subscribe to relevant podcasts
Learning directly from subject matter experts is a great way to become one.
Join a professional organization
This gives you an advantage over your peers because with meetings, committees and conferences, you stay up-to-date with what’s happening in your professional community—keeping you active and informed. It also shows that you are committed to your profession.
Participate in a virtual webinar or networking event
Organizations like ALA and SLA have adapted to the COVID-19 landscape by offering more networking events and learning opportunities that you can take part in from your home. These are great options to network, improve your skills, or add new skills to your resume while in quarantine.
Put your skills into action
Not having the specific skills does not necessarily bar you from getting the job of your dreams. Identifying and highlighting examples of your transferable skills can go a long way. Doing such will give your potential employer assurance that you are the best fit for the job. A lot of employers are looking for talent and potential during the hiring process, and focusing on what you can do instead of what you cannot do may be the difference between you and another job candidate.
Skills such as project management, reading comprehension, analytical skills and the ability to do research are all skills that can be transferred to any job. Your skillset is ultimately your “bag of tricks” that may be the determining factor between you and another candidate. Make sure you plan accordingly.